News Roundup

Late last week Special Counsel Robert Mueller submitted his report on the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.  Attorney General William Barr wrote a summary of the report to members of Congress on Sunday, saying that the report has two parts, one focusing on whether the Trump campaign coordinated with the Russian government and the other focusing on whether President Trump obstructed justice.  Barr quotes the report as stating that “the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”  Barr’s summary says that the Special Counsel did not “make a traditional prosecutorial judgment” on the question of obstruction, and quotes the report as stating that “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”  Along with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, Barr said that he had concluded that the evidence in the report is “not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense.”  Keep reading for more news.

Underlying Crime & Obstruction.  Attorney General Barr’s summary explains that in making their determination on the obstruction question, he and Rosenstein considered the fact that the evidence in the report did “not establish that the President was involved in an underlying crime related to Russian interference.”  He said that while this fact was “not determinative,” it was relevant to “the President’s intent with respect to obstruction.”  Time has a piece with reaction to Barr’s obstruction reasoning from former federal prosecutors here and Law Fare has a piece that looks at the reasoning in light of federal prosecution guidelines here.

Drug Death Offense.  WRAL reports that North Carolina lawmakers filed bills this week that would create a new crime applicable to situations where drug dealers sell drugs that are used in fatal overdoses.  According to the report, prosecutors in these situations often offer defendants manslaughter pleas because they are unsure whether they can secure a murder conviction.  The new offense doesn’t require proof of malice or intent to kill, and would be punishable as a Class C felony.

Escape.  Another report from WRAL says that on Monday five inmates escaped from Nash Detention Center, apparently they created a hole in fencing in an exercise yard and fled into a wooded area.  At the time of writing, four of the five escapees were in custody and that the FBI has been called to assist with the search for the inmate who remains at large.  That inmate has been identified as Laquaris Rashad Battle and a number for Crime Stoppers and information about a reward are available at the WRAL link.

Avenatti.  California attorney Michael Avenatti, best known for representing Stormy Daniels in a lawsuit and public relations effort related to a non-disclosure agreement that Daniels had with the President, was charged this week with federal criminal offenses by U.S. Attorney Offices on both coasts.  In New York, Avenatti is facing extortion charges after allegedly asking Nike to pay him millions of dollars in exchange for not making potentially damaging public disclosures about the company.  In California, he has been charged with bank and wire fraud.  A story from the L.A. Times details a long history of questionable activity by Avenatti.

Smollett.  This week Chicago prosecutors dismissed all charges against Jussie Smollett arising from his alleged faking of a hate crime against himself earlier this year.   Associated Press reports that the city’s police chief and mayor each expressed disagreement with the decision.  Yesterday the city’s legal department sent a letter to Smollett asking that he pay $130,000 for the cost of the investigation.

Bump Stocks.  The Associated Press reports that yesterday the U.S. Supreme Court declined a request from gun rights groups to prevent the government from enforcing the federal ban on bump stocks that went into effect on Tuesday.

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